Yoga is not only exercises, which can make you healthier, it is a religion, it is a way to find a harmony between your mind, soul and body.
Yoga is a lifestyle, which can change your life, to make you happier and helps to get rid of stress, depression, anger and other negative emotions. It gives you an opportunity to live a quiet, confident life,also it makes you stronger.
Yoga is the Ancient wisdom, which teaches us that humans are able to do great things, even to cure our body and mind by using knowledge from Universe, controlling emotions and to use our own energy to recover. At the end it allows us to achieve self-fulfillment and reunion with you high self. Yoga enhances sharpness and mental clarity.
Ancient writing offer us many ways to achieve this all, for example:
- The path of Knowledge – Jnana Yoga.
The path of Jnana yoga was first encouraged and fully outlined by Adi Jagadguru Shankaracharya. He stated that a practitioner of Jnana yoga, or a jnani, needed both complete renunciation and a deep desire to be free from maya, or illusions.
It is said that once the student is ready, achieving the goal of Jnana yoga may take as little as a few days. The ideal three-step path of Jnana yoga is as follows:
- The student is taught about Vedantic philosophy by a guru, or spiritual teacher, and they listen carefully.
- The student reflects on these teachings and seeks to understand their subtleties.
- The student meditates on Brahman as described in the Vedantic texts and, through this combination of knowledge and meditation, he/she experiences absolute Truth.
Experiencing true knowledge through Jnana yoga allows the practitioner to know God and be liberated. To achieve this, Jnana yogis will also draw on elements of Bhakti yoga, as part of the experience of knowing God is practicing devotion.
2. The path of faith and worship of the divine, the path of devotion- Bhakti Yoga.
This deeply spiritual practice draws heavily on the Hindu pantheon of deities. Each of these deities is seen as representing a humanized aspect of the single Godhead or Brahman – much the same way the Christian saints represent specific attributes and qualities of God. The use of Hindu deities in Bhakti Yoga can be a large obstacle for Western practitioners, especially for those with a deeply religious background. But the use of the Hindu deities is not required for this practice – in fact, finding your own object(s) of devotion will be all the more effective in achieving yoga (union) with the Divine.
There are nine main practices of Bhakti Yoga that can be practiced independently or together. Each of these limbs creates a specific bhava (feeling) that appeals to different inner constitutions of practitioners.
The Nine Limbs of Devotion :
1. Shravana – “listening” to the ancient scriptures, especially potent if told by a saint or genuine bhakta.
2. Kirtana – “singing” devotional songs, usually practiced in a call-and-response group format.
3. Smarana – “remembering” the Divine by constantly meditating upon its name and form.
4. Padasevana – “service at the feet” of the Divine, which incorporates the practice of karma yoga (selfless service) with bhakti (devotion).
5. Archana – the “ritual worship” of the Divine through practices such as puja (deity worship), and havan or homa (fire offering).
6. Vandana – the “prostration” before the image of one’s chosen image or representation of the Divine.
7. Dasya – the “unquestioning” devotion of the Divine involving the cultivation of serving the will of God instead of one’s own ego.
8. Sakhya – the “friendship” and relationship established between the Divine and the devotee.
9. Atmanivedana – the “self-offering” and complete surrender of the self to the Divine.
The most popular limb of Bhakti Yoga in the West is Kirtana (usually called Kirtan), with national and local Kirtan walas performing weekly in small to large cities. Bhakti Yoga can be practiced by itself or be integrated into other types of yoga or spiritual practices.
3. The path of selfless action, the service to society- Karma Yoga.
Karma Yoga has a special position and significance among all fundamental kinds of yoga. The Yoga of Action is a path that somehow links all the other forms of yoga. It creates an essential connection between formal practice and daily life. It is a way of bringing awareness, sacredness, and spiritual significance into any moment of our life. All other kinds of yoga rely on Karma Yoga, because action is not something that can be avoided in the material world.
Of course, when we meditate, we can be in a state of peace, of equanimity. But, what is a spiritual attitude when we eat? Or when we walk? Or work? As spiritual practitioners, “right action” is an action that is not only morally correct, but also conducive to spiritual transformation. Otherwise, action is karmically binding—that is, it reinforces spiritual blindness (avidya, ignorance) and, thus, leads to suffering.
Therefore, Karma Yoga is, at least from this perspective, the most complete of all branches of yoga. It incorporates the mindful attentiveness of Raja Yoga, the discriminative capacity of Jnana Yoga, and the heartfelt devotion of Bhakti Yoga. Our entire being, with all its levels and structures, is engaged in this practice in all circumstances of life. Another virtue of Karma Yoga is that it serves to refine and validate our progress in all the other branches of Yoga. Thus, life itself becomes Karma Yoga.
Karma Yoga—Selfless Action in Awareness and Love
We can look at Karma Yoga from two perspectives:
- As a formal practice in which we selflessly act for the benefit of others (for example, in a community). Sometimes this form of service is called seva.
- As an attitude which spontaneously brings awareness, detachment, and sacredness in all the moments of our life.
4. The path of discipline and effort to achieve complete health of the body and mind- Hatha Yoga.
Hatha yoga can not only be an independent and full-fledged way of self-improvement, but is also a very desirable basis for higher yoga practices.
But it is very important to understand that Hatha Yoga is not a therapeutic gymnastics. Body health is not the goal of Hatha Yoga. Health is a natural state of the body that returns and is maintained due to the practice of physical yoga.
Read more about how hatha yoga affects human health.
In our body there are two main manifestations of energy – warm solar energy flowing through the right energy channel (Pingala) and cold lunar energy flowing through the left channel (Ida). Solar energy is an activity in the outside world, fruitful activity, extraversion. Lunar energy is introspection, meditation, contemplation of internal processes.
The goal of Hatha Yoga is to achieve a balance of these energies.
5. The path of meditation- Raja Yoga.
Raja means King. A king acts with independence, self-confidence and assurance. Likewise, a Raja Yogi is autonomous, independent and fearless. Raja Yoga is the path of self-discipline and practice.
Raja Yoga is also known as Ashtanga Yoga (Eight Steps of Yoga), because it is organised in eight parts:
- Yama – Self-control
- Niyama- Discipline
- Asana – Physical exercises
- Pranayama – Breath exercises
- Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses from external objects
- Dharana – Concentration
- Dhyana – Meditation
- Samadhi – Complete Realization
The eight steps of Raja Yoga provide systematic instruction to attain inner peace, clarity, self-control and Realisation.
Yama – Self-Control
consists of five principles:
- Ahimsa – Non-ViolenceAhimsa means not to cause pain or harm to any living being by thought, word or deed. Non-violence also means not to kill. Consumption of meat requires the death of an animal. It is due to this principle that Yogis are Vegetarian. Animals have a keen instinct, which heightens their awareness of impending death. They sense when they are to be slaughtered and are in mortal fear. Fear and stress hormones are released throughout their body. These hormones remain in the flesh of the slaughtered animal and are eaten by unsuspecting people. Many apparently groundless fears, neuroses and psychoses have their origin in this food.
- Satya – TruthfulnessTo always speak the truth is good and correct, but more important is how we convey the truth. We have the capacity to hurl truth at someone like a knife, but we are also capable of clothing that same truth in loving words. In order not to violate the principle of Ahimsa as mentioned above, we should heed the advice of Mahaprabhuji, who said: “Each of your words should fall like flowers from your lips”.To be truthful also means not to hide your feelings, not to be evasive or make excuses. Perhaps for some time we can hide our true face from the eyes of others, but there is at least one person knows our inner truth – our own self. Our own consciousness is a witness.
- Asteya – Non-StealingAsteya means that you should never take anything that rightfully belongs to another. This means not only material objects, but also the stealing of mental property, to rob someone of an opportunity, hope or joy. The exploitation of nature and destruction of the environment also fall into this category.
- Brahmacharya – Pure Way of LifeBrahmacharya is often translated as sexual abstinence. But it actually consists of much more. Brahmacharya means that our thoughts should always be turned towards God. This doesn’t imply that we should neglect our duties in this world. On the contrary, we should fulfil these responsibilities with great care, but always with the awareness: “I am not the doer, God alone is the doer”.
- Aparigraha – Non-Accumulation of PossessionsWe should not accumulate goods, but only acquire and use what we need to live. One who has many possessions, also has many worries. We are born without belongings and when we again depart from this world, we leave all behind. Non accumulation also means to grant other people their freedom – not to hold onto others. In letting go, we also free ourselves. Therefore, to give freedom means to also to be free one’s self.
Niyama – Discipline
consists of five principles:
- Shauca – PurityNot only external purity, but more importantly, inner purity. Our clothing, our body, as well as our thoughts and feelings should be pure. The same holds true for the people we associate with. For our spiritual development it is of great benefit to keep good company of people who impart a good influence upon us, who are spiritual and support us with their wisdom.
- Santosh – ContentmentContentment is the greatest wealth we are able to possess. The Indian poet Tulsidas, said: “You may possess mines of gold and precious stone, but inner discontent destroys all wealth”. We can attain contentment only when we recognise that all worldly goods bring disappointment and that inner wealth provides more happiness than material possessions.
- Tapa – Self-Control, Self-DisciplineIn life, when we encounter adversity and obstacles, we should never give up. Rather we should continue on our chosen path with firm determination. To continue to practice, with self-discipline, patience and perseverance – this is the key to success.
- Svadhyaya – Study of the Holy ScripturesAs Yoga aspirants we ought to acquaint ourselves with the traditional scriptures of Yoga philosophy, such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, etc. These scriptures impart valuable knowledge and provide great assistance on our Yoga path.
- Ishvara Pranidhana – Devotion to GodHand over all that you do to the Divine Self with pure devotion. God protects all who surrender with trust and faith.
Asana – Physical Exercises and
Pranayama – Breath Exercises
In the process of controlling the body and breath, Raja Yogis also achieve control of the mind. This leads to an awakening of those inner powers which will continue to give guidance on the spiritual path.
Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the Senses
Yogis are in the position of being able to direct their mind and senses at will, either inward or outward. Just like a tortoise can withdraw its limbs and head under its shell and extend them out again. Once there is controlled Pratyahara there is gained an independence from external conditions. One can immediately withdraw the senses from external objects and also, when desired, use the senses consciously, with full awareness.
In the first stages of meditation we practice Pratyahara, keeping the body motionless, the eyes closed, the mind quiet and the attention directed inward. There are special techniques through which we can practice Pratyahara. One meditation exercise initially directs attention to external sounds, their nature, distance, etc. – simply observing the sound. Gradually awareness is withdrawn to one’s “inner space” to the sounds within the body (heartbeat, blood circulation, etc.). It is only when one has mastered the step of Pratyahara that we can progress to concentration.
Dharana – Concentration
Dharana means to focus one’s thoughts and feelings upon a single object. Usually we succeed with this for only a short time, then other thoughts come and distract us. We become aware of our lack of concentration after just a few minutes. Until we are capable of concentration on a thought or object for any length of time, in any situation, we still have not mastered Dharana.
Candle meditation (Trataka), specific Asanas and Pranayamas, as well as the repetition of Mantra, greatly help in improving the ability to concentrate.
Dhyana – Meditation
All meditation techniques are only preliminary exercises for true meditation. One cannot learn to meditate, just as we cannot “learn” to sleep. Sleep just happens when our body becomes relaxed and quiet. Meditation happens when the mind is quiet. In meditation there is no imagination, because imagination arises from the intellect. We can compare the human brain to a powerful computer that has enormous storage capacity. All the data of the Universe may be stored there, but this “computer” is also limited. Our human brain can only reproduce what has been fed into it. But in meditation, we experience pure being. The moment the intellect is still and the individual ego ceases to exist, Divine light shines within the heart and we are one with it.
Samadhi – Complete Realization
Samadhi is where the knower, knowledge and object of knowledge unite. The knower (i.e. the person practicing), knowledge (i.e. what is God) and the object of knowledge (i.e. God) become one. This means that one unites with the Divine consciousness. Those who attain Samadhi see a heavenly, radiant light, hear a heavenly sound and feel within themselves an infinite expanse. When Samadhi is attained, we are like a river that finally flows into the sea after a long and difficult journey. All obstacles are overcome and the river is, for all of time, united with the ocean. In the same way, a Yogi arrives at the end of the path and becomes one with the Supreme Consciousness. The Yogi’s consciousness finds eternal quiet, peace and bliss – the Yogi is liberated. This experience cannot be conveyed in words, because:
only one who has tasted milk, knows how milk tastes;
only one who has felt pain, knows what is pain;
only one who has loved, knows what is love;
and so only one who has experienced Samadhi, knows what is Samadhi.
In this state all duality is dissolved. There is neither day or night, neither darkness or light, no qualities or colour. Everything is one in the Supreme Self. This union of the individual soul with the Cosmic soul is the goal of Yoga.
6. The path of practice awakening and regulating the flow of pranic energy- Kundalini Yoga. Pranic energy is a life supporting force, occurring in nature and the whole Universe.
Learn yourself, be healthy and of course, happy!)
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